Sunday, January 9, 2011

Online Transcription Service: ChaCha's Online Audio Transcription Job

ChaCha, at one point, was a hugely popular text-message based question-answering system—similar to KGB, but free. During it's peak run in 2008, the system was accessed by millions of people from all over the world.

Update:  ChaCha eventually discontinued all Guide Roles and launched a new program called Apollo, which I was not familiar with. Apollo had a relatively short run and is now defunct.

How did ChaCha work?

When someone had a question, they could submit it to ChaCha via text message. Alternatively, they could access ChaCha's voice service by calling a toll free number. Questions asked over the voice service would then be sent over to a transcriber. Once the question was transcribed, it was sent off to a ChaCha expert who would answer the question and send the response via text.

Obviously with the rise of smart phones and Google, the service was no longer needed. ChaCha often took up to 10 minutes to answer a question, but today, you can type a question in Google and have the answer within a matter of seconds.

Did working for ChaCha require terminology certification or special equipment?

ChaCha's transcriber position was considered a "general transcription" job. Because of this, no legal or medical terminology knowledge was required. ChaCha didn't require transcribers to have any special equipment either, although it was highly recommended that transcribers own a pair of quality headphones. Other than that, the ChaCha Transcriber interface was equipped with all of the tools you needed.

How much did ChaCha pay? When (and how) did they pay?

When the ChaCha service was still up and running, there were two modes for earning.

Traditional Mode - In Traditional Mode, transcribers earned $0.03 per completed and accepted transcription.

GuideShare Mode - In GuideShare Mode, transcribers earned two points for each completed and accepted transcription. At the beginning of each month, points were given a cash value based on the overall performance of ChaCha guides. If the guides received great views the previous month, the cash value of the points would be increased.

Payments for ChaCha transcribers was made via direct deposit when earnings reached or exceeded $100, prior to the 15th of the month. Instant payment was also available by requesting a ChaCha "Pay Me Now" debit card. After ordering the debit card (which required filing paperwork via snail mail), you would have to wait for it to arrive. Once you received the card and had it activated, you could click "Pay Me Now" and the funds would instantly be transferred to your card.

Later, ChaCha added the option of getting paid with PayPal, which was a welcomed change for many of the guides on the website.

How much could you earn with ChaCha?

Earning potential varied greatly at ChaCha. Many factors came into play. For example, one day, you might complete 200 sessions, but the next day, there may only be 50.

The best time to work was when ChaCha sent out "High Volume Alerts" which indicated that they were receiving a huge volume of questions and the guides needed help with the workload. Awards shows, season premiers, and political debates often resulted in a higher volume of callers. Those were the best times to earn.

The earning potential with ChaCha was quite low. Even though I typed 80+ words per minute, had high-quality headphones, and an ear for detail, I only earned about $3 per hour in Traditional Mode. Even still, I found the work to be enjoyable and humorous. Questions were typically short and precise and if you had trouble understanding a caller, you could send a request for clarification and/or audio adjustment.

Did you work for ChaCha? What was your experience?

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